How to protect corporate brand
Brand risk is at an all-time high. In a viral world where true (and not so true) news spreads like wildfire, protecting brands from sabotage can be an all-consuming task.
Traditional marketing theory often relies on the metaphor of marketing as warfare, portraying the marketing executive as the general deploying troops and resources in a campaign to reach defined sequential objectives to conquer market share.
However the theory is out of date. Instead, marketers must now think and act like counterinsurgents, drawing inspiration from the military’s counterinsurgency manual. There is a seven-step plan to guide you.
Assess risks to your brand: Companies need to hone risk intelligence and learn where and why brand attacks can happen.
Scan the environment for brand risks resulting from changes to operations-licensing deals, new product launches, changes in suppliers, changes in pricing, new hires and outsourcing changes.
When threats arise, they often source from customers, reviewers, gadflies and ideologues.
Galvanize your brand troops: Your entire team needs to engage in preventing and mitigating brand sabotage.
In any organization, leadership has to educate, train and motivate employees in this new aspect of communication and brand management. Companies need to write guidelines for using social media and teach brand resilience as a competency.
Deploy early warning systems for brand risk: While you have to live with the reality that you’re not going to prevent every possible incident of brand sabotage, focus on building early warning capabilities that allow you to reduce the time you spend in a defensive posture.
Put together an informal team that monitors online and social media; as well as that brainstorms reactions. Develop filters to assess what is relevant.
Repel the attacks on your brand: “Brand shocks” are violent, sudden, unexpected or traumatic acts or events.
When a brand shock happens, you step back and evaluate it as a series of discrete events you will manage over time. This helps to isolate variables, identify key audiences and mobilize your team despite internal panic.
The brand shock unfolds in three stages: the brand shock itself, the time when you become aware of the brand shock, and the time when the brand shock becomes public knowledge.
You can make preemptive responses through internal changes between stages two and three. Your public response will require a meaningful apology, remedial steps and a plan to rectify the mistakes depending on the circumstances.
Learn and adapt to your brand defenses. Make each brand shock an opportunity to inform and motivate peers and superiors about the importance of maintaining brand defense and resilience.
Every time you experience a brand shock, ensure your team logs the incident, describes what happened, investigates the cause without assigning blame, formulates recommendations, assigns responsibility for implementation and tracks progress.
Measure and track brand resilience: Measure customer views of your brand through a variety of means such as posing as a customer, focus groups, surveys and loyalty measurements.
Track them through brand shocks to learn how they’ve been affected. Don’t overanalyze data. Look for major swings from the norm.
Your brand is almost always going to have loyal customers, a regular turnover of new customers and a broad middle swath of occasional customers. How does each group respond to a brand shock?
Generate popular support: Educate peers and other divisions about the importance of brand resilience. Communicate, cultivate, and engage blogger, media, and consumer brand advocates who like to talk about and promote your company.
It’s hard to be an effective counterinsurgent when your passionate followers don’t support you.
Skillful brand marketers know what it takes to build good brands. However, for the risk intelligent enterprise, investment in brand-building is not enough anymore.
In a world filled with intentional and accidental brand saboteurs, companies need to aggressively play defense as much as offense.